Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 23.
Kommersant: Russia ready to bury the cyber hatchet if US agrees, Putin adviser says
Moscow will not make any unilateral statements regarding cybersecurity, nor acquiesce to taking the blame for allegations that are being pinned on Russia, Putin’s special representative for international cooperation in the field of information security Andrei Krutskikh said in an interview with Kommersant daily. “We are ready for (cybersecurity – TASS) talks any time, in the event that they are serious and substantial, and we will wait if needed,” he vowed. “If any agreements are reached, (they should be) based on mutual guarantees, and even better – on broad guarantees and regulations like the ones proposed by Russia for many years. We will not abide by someone’s ultimatums, demands or provide unilateral guarantees,” he emphasized.
When asked whether Krutskikh considers it possible to apply cyber deterrence mentioned recently by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, he replied that this is extremely dangerous logic. “Those are various peculiar fields, with no patterns here. On the contrary, forceful competition by great powers should not be in focus in cyberspace, but rather boosting confidence, transparency and cooperation, involving as many as possible countries,” he said. According Russia’s representative, Moscow and Washington could lead those processes. “A situation when two cowboys are aiming ‘cyber’ pistols at each other is abnormal. We are ready to put down our ‘six-shooters’ if they are as well. However so far, tensions are only rising, whereas it is necessary to reach agreements and share this experience to others,” he said.
Particularly, Moscow’s proposal planned to be announced at a US-Russia meeting on cybersecurity in Geneva scheduled for the end of February 2018, was aimed at striking an agreement, “envisioning information exchange and direct and regular collaboration between departments,” the official mentioned. “Such an accord on cyberspace would increase transparency and predictability. We could not only notify each other about any suspicious things, but also undertake joint efforts to solve arising problems,” he said. “We arrived in Geneva with a high-profile delegation, with 17 high-ranking experts, and expected a similar team from the US. The agenda of consultations had been approved, and we were going to discuss all pressing issues and draft ways out of the deadlock,” Krutskikh added. As reported earlier the consultations failed to take place through the US administration’s fault, which prompted Moscow to postpone the strategic stability talks in Vienna on March 6-7.
Kommersant: Russia set to launch supplies of S-300 air defense systems to Syria
The issue of delivering the S-300 Favorit air defense systems from Russia to Syria, which “used to be primarily a political angle,” has almost been resolved as Russia is about to start its supplies, Kommersant writes with reference to military and diplomatic sources. Damascus struck contracts on those supplies back in 2010, though the agreement was later halted under Israel’s request. This time around, Favorit’s delivery is planned on a non-repayable basis as part of military and technical assistance to Syria. They will be used as a basis for the creation of a layered air defense system in the country as quickly as possible to counteract potential strikes by the US-led coalition and Israel, the newspaper says.
No official response on Russia’s plans to supply the S-300s to Syria has come from Israel yet, though some expect a knee-jerk reaction from Tel Aviv, the publication says. According to Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov, Moscow “most likely chose the option of providing demonstrative support to Bashar Assad after the April strike, which required a certain response from Russia due to the US and its allies.”
Meanwhile, Russia assumes that deployment of the S-300s in Syria will help stabilize the environment in the country and prevent Israel and the US-led collation from freely eliminating civil and military infrastructure. Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security Viktor Bondarev believes that “the presence of efficient defense equipment in any sovereign country will sober up some loose cannons not just among NATO military and high-ranking officers.” Initially, plans are to keep Russian military advisors on the ground to coordinate actions of their Syrian counterparts, sources told Kommersant, adding that if, for example, Israel decided to attack the S-300s’ locations, the consequences “will be catastrophic for all sides.”
Vedomosti: Gazprom to build $20-bln gas processing plant near Baltic Sea
Russia’s top gas producer plans to construct a gigantic gas processing plant on the Baltic Sea in collaboration with RusGasDobycha, a company previously owned by businessman Arkady Rotenberg, Vedomosti writes with reference to sources in the industry. The cost of the project with annual capacity of up to 45 bln cubic meters of gas is preliminarily estimated at around $20 bln, sources said. Gazprom’s representative confirmed to the newspaper that the project is being hammered out. If implemented it may become the company’s second-biggest project in terms of investment expenditures after the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline project.
Part of gas from the plant, which is planned to be constructed in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, close to Ust-Luga, will be supplied to the Baltic LNG for liquefaction. The remaining gas will be exported via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, sources told the newspaper. Gazprom and RusGasDobycha signed a memorandum of intent in the area of gas processing and gas chemical production in May 2017. However, Rotenberg’s spokesman told Vedomosti that the businessman has no connection to the company now.
Director at Fitch Ratings Dmitry Marinchenko believes that the development of oil and gas chemical production is crucial for diversification of exports both for Gazprom and the Russian economy in general. “Many global oil and gas companies, from the [oil] giant Shell to the relatively small Hungarian MOL are preoccupied with beefing up the share of petrochemicals in the revenue structure,” he told the paper, adding that from this viewpoint this Gazprom project is in line with the global trend. “Moreover, the project in Ust-Luga could help Gazprom resolve another challenging task – to maintain the amount of capital investment program at a reasonable level regarding both the company itself and its key contractors,” the analyst explained. Only 2-3 years are left before its main projects envisioning pipeline construction in Russia, including the Power of Siberia, will be completed, he added.
RBC: Business tired of state involvement, expects no major privatization deals, survey says
Around 90% of large Russian companies highlight mounting government involvement in the economy, a poll conducted by the Adizes Institute, a global consultancy, under RBC’s request showed. The bulk of respondents consider the state’s share to be extremely large, but expect no major privatization deals in the future, the paper writes. Both independent economists and government officials have been pointing to growing nationalization of the Russian economy as one of the main issues. Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who drafted President Putin’s economic program, suggests working to reduce the state’s share as one of the nation’s key structural reforms. According to the CSR’s data, the state sector’s share grew from 39.6% in 2006 to 46% in 2016. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has provided even more dramatic statistics, saying that in 2015, around 70% of the economy was under state control, up from 35% in 2005.
With the state’s share in the economy mounting, the number of dependent companies also surges, Peter Shtrom, Adizes Institute’s Vice President says, adding that this trend in inevitable and most companies find it challenging to establish relations with the state. Meanwhile, Kirill Nikitin, PwC’s partner, a government and public sector expert, believes that “the state’s involvement in the economy does not affect operations of companies that understand how to cooperate with state bodies properly.” Without this skill, it is still difficult to enter the market in many sectors of the economy, he added. Meanwhile, business finds it easier to cooperate with private partners, as the research found out, with 100% of the respondents saying so. Three-quarters of those polled acknowledged that they have to work with private partners more often than with state companies, enterprises and public bodies.
Izvestia: Lunar exploration impossible without Moon research vehicles
Russia’s State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics located in St. Petersburg is designing a new moon research vehicle to be managed from the Russian segment of the International Space Station for a space experiment, Director and Chief Designer of the Center Alexander Lopota told Izvestia. “It is impossible for carry out a full-fledged exploration of the Moon’s surface without mobile robotic vehicles. Though this is the next stage of lunar exploration, we should thinking about it right now,” he stressed.
According to Lopota, it is necessary not only “to define the types of future Moon research vehicles and their design, but also to develop technologies of communication with satellite vehicles located far away from the management center.” “A great variety of robotic platforms will be required at the lunar exploration stage. The Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is designing a robotic geologist, which will explore a route of around 400 kilometers and the surface layer with soil experiments, carry out seismologic tests, and set up an automatic observation station for long-term monitoring,” he explained.
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